Officially known as the Egger-Lohner electric vehicle, C.2 Phaeton, it’s the first car ever designed by the legendary Ferdinand Porsche. And it was found stuffed in the back of an old Austrian warehouse – since 1902.
The model was one of several electric vehicles the automotive pioneer – later known for his groundbreaking sports cars – developed in his early years. The classic, newly restored after 115 years – more than 111 of them in storage – is getting its rightful place of honor at the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart this week as part of the gallery’s fifth anniversary.
The then 22-year-old Ferdinand Porsche, a promising young engineer who had come to Vienna to get some formal training from Jacob Lohner, an early automotive manufacturer, developed the C.2 Phaeton. At the time, gasoline was a rare commodity and the industry’s pioneers were experimenting with all sorts of alternatives including steam and batteries.
Porsche’s first try was little more than a crude carriage powered by an electric motor. The entire vehicle weighed in at 2,977 pounds (1350 kg) – which included a 287-pound (130 kg) motor and 1,103 pounds (500 kg) of batteries. That was enough to give the Egger-Lohner a range of 49 miles (78 km), its 5-horsepower motor allowing it to hit a top speed of 21 mph (34 km/h), though it was designed to cruise at something closer to 15 mph (24 km/h).
After a year of street testing, the P1 got its first serious challenge in September 1899 when it was shipped to the international motor vehicle exhibition in Berlin to compete in an all-electric vehicle race. Porsche’s Phaeton completed the challenge – which called for carrying three passengers a distance of 24 miles – 18 minutes ahead of the nearest competitor, half of whom failed to complete the race.
The car got its nickname, incidentally, because Ferdinand Porsche engraved “P1,” meaning Porsche car number one, on all key parts.